Revisiting “imagined communities” in digital space: The case of the 3.11 disaster
Sonja Petrovic (PhD Candidate, Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne)
In the wake of natural disaster, people urgently respond with altruism and initiative to help those in need – family, friends and strangers, improvising shelter and communities. The 2011 triple disaster had profound implications for social changes and new interactions among individuals in Japan. The earthquake not only reconfigured Japan’s geography but citizens’ sense of place, security and communal belonging. Online media introduced new dimensions and forms of interactions and communication among individuals, without temporal and spatial barriers, thereby creating a new concept of online communities.
Reflecting on Anderson’s conception of “imagined community”, this paper explores how online media fosters the creation of “imagined community” and provides a new channel for intimate connection and expression. Drawing on qualitative interviews conducted with 38 participants living in Tokyo at the time of 3.11, that discuss citizens’ media use during and immediately after the 3.11 disaster, this paper argues that online media has strong implications for individual perception of their sense of belonging to local and regional communities. This has implications for how we conceptualize “imagined communities” in contemporary digital space.
3.11 disaster, online communities, imagined communities, sense of belonging, digital space